The Social List: The Sunday Times Social Media “Rich” List

Since 1989, the Sunday Times – a UK based newspaper – has been publishing a “rich list”. The list published every April counts down the 1000 wealthiest people in the UK. Not to be left behind the times, the Sunday Times announced on Friday May 17th, 2011 that the future holds another kind of list: the Social List.

The Social List  might sound like a note pasted to the wall of a high school girl’s washroom, but it’s actually a new social media ranking system by the Sunday Times.

Since 1989, the Sunday Times – a UK based newspaper – has been publishing a “rich list”. The list published every April counts down the 1000 wealthiest people in the UK.  Not to be left behind the times (so to speak), the Sunday Times announced on Friday May 17th, 2011 that the future holds another kind of list: the Social List.

Users will sign up with the service and The Social List will rank the top social networkers.  The list will be generated through an algorithm designed to calculate social media activity across four major social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Foursquare. This means that no one kind of social network or activity is valued over another; whether a company relies on tweets or status updates, it won’t negatively impact their potential score. However, the sheer volume of tweets someone makes won’t necessarily give them a high score. Instead, the site claims to track the way a user interacts with their “wider network”. This means that there is an increased value placed on re-tweets, “likes”, and responses.

By signing up for the listing, a user’s social media activity will be tracked and subsequently ranked.  Obviously hoping to attract and build their own social network the Times notes that The Social List signals that the Sunday Times – and News International its parent company – are “serious about social media”.  The proof is in the promotion; users are also encouraged to post their rankings on their own social media sites.

The rankings will no doubt favour major companies and celebrities. However, it is possible for a social media manager to squeak onto the list. As stated by Sunday Times online editor Gordon Thomson: “Most of us won’t ever appear the rich list, but this is a service that anyone can get involved with.” Further, users will be able to view comparative results between themselves and major players on the list.

Currently, the site is still in its infancy stages. Since its announcement Friday, and the subsequent influx of users, the site has already experienced an increase in downtime. Further, there are kinks that will need to be resolved if the service intends to function as a useable app: page loading times can be slow and there are some very valid privacy concerns. As with any new measurement service, results are still somewhat skewed; so if you plan on using the site to gain an automatic ranking of your social media effectiveness, take the result as a guideline, not as a definitive statement.

The list will definitely be a useful tool for brands, businesses, and social media tycoons. It may also generate interest in social media measurement to a broader audience. One has to wonder whether the list will be accurate enough to remain useful or if it will deteriorate into a social media popularity contest. Of course one might argue that social media is essentially a popularity contest anyways.